Posts Tagged ‘Slam’

Is none other than my good friend and teammate, IKENNA ONYEGBULA, aka OPENSECRET!


Friday night the Copper Conundrum performed as part the Vernacular Spectacular show at the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. It went very well and we received a lot of very positive feedback. Danielle, Kevin and I had a great time and we really appreciate Caitlyn Paxson for inviting us to perform.

Speaking of the Storytelling Festival, if given the opportunity you NEED to go out and see Tim Tingle perform. The man is brilliant. It was as emotionally moving as any performance I have ever seen.

Saturday night was Capital Slam. The features were an amalgam of Urban Legends and Wild Card team members from CFSW. It was fun. There was a surprising dearth of performers… maybe because six of them were featuring. πŸ™‚
I wasn’t planning to sign up, but since we only had seven slammers I added my name to make it eight.

Because I hadn’t really prepared, I did a couple of poems I had been working on with the Copper Conundrum. It is fun to do older stuff sometimes. I did Library and The Stranger. They went over well and I ended up third (improving my season score a little and keeping me in first overall… until Chris Tse performs again. πŸ™‚

We had a first time winner… Sepideh! She wowed ’em at CFSW and now has a Capital Slam victory under her belt! Well done!

The final rankings were:

1. Sepideh
2. PrufRock (making his season debut)
3. Rusty Priske
4. Talia
5. Loh El
6. Ronsense (Ron Langton now has a stage name!)
7. Marco Lobo
8. Kheim Possible

On Sunday, Ruthanne Edward held a Story Slam at the Ottawa Storytelling Festival. It was a lot of fun. It was a more ‘pure’ storytelling lineup (as opposed to the Once Upon a Slam crowd which has a mix of storytellers and narrative poetry). There were a lot of time penalties (including two people who racked up 6 point penalties each), but in the end the top scorer wasn’t decided by the stop watch.

1. David Hickey (Montreal)
2. Kim Kilpatrick (Ottawa) – (two slams, two 2nds for Kim)
3. Phil Nagy (Ottawa)

One item of note was Kate Hunt of the Kymeras, who is a great poet, but had never slammed. She took Ruthanne’s workshop and made her slam AND storytelling debut! She ended up with a very good score, but picked up one of those 6 point time penalties. Nobody cared. It was awesome.

This Friday is the return of Once Upon A Slam at the Mercury Underground. Story Slam is rising fast and looks to be the Next Big Thing! Get in on the ground floor (pun intended…)


Posted: July 19, 2010 in Poetry, Slam, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Saturday was the Lanark County Slam Finals. I was invited to host again (and I performed the poem included below)!

The Lanark scene is really shaping up with talent presented, but there was also only one poet (I think) who hadn’t appeared in their finals before. Getting new people is tough but neccesary. I hope they can do it because the scene is strong and the poets and the community deserve it. πŸ™‚

In the end, one of the best poets they have (in my opinion) was knocked out of the running due to time penalties when she stumbled over her poem, which is a shame.

The team is still top notch, though! The Lanark Champ is Emily Kwissa, who has been on the team all three years, but this is her first as champ. (An interesting note, two years ago in Calgary, Emily broke the record for the youngest poet on the CFSW stage, beating Ottawa’s DJ Morales. This year, Lanark could have broken it again if Satinka Schilling had made the team. She came very close but lost in a ‘slam-off’ for the alt spot.)
Second was Sarah Bingham. Last year Sarah had time problems, which kept her off the team. This year she got that in order, kept under three minutes both rounds, and kept her spot!
Third was Inez Dekker. Inez has been a part of the scene from the start but this is her first time on the team. (interesting note #2 – remember I mentioned that Lanark had the youngest performer ever on the CFSW stage? I BELIEVE that with Inez they will now have the oldest as well. – Oh, I asked Inez’ permission before I said that…) I am not 100% sure because I haven’t been to every festival, though. I’m going to try to find out because that sure says a lot about Lanark County! Everybody says they are inclusive but to have the youngest AND oldest is pretty impressive.
Fourth was Ken Kicksee. He was on the team last year as well. He was the only male competing this year as Lanark continues to have the opposite problem that CapSlam was having.
The alternate is Britt Faraday for the second year in a row. As I said above, she was actually tied with Satinka but won in the slam-off.

Good show. Fun times. Too bad about Danielle because we all know she has the ability to be on the team, but it just wasn’t her night. I’ve certainly known that feeling of panic when suddenly the words vanish from your brain.

At Danielle’s request, I performed a piece that I had only done as part of the Copper Conundrum… and happens to be the next poem for this blog.

CONTEXT: June, 2010

First off, it is a true story and I am going to out the person I refer to in the poem: Gilles Labelle. Gilles is a good guy, but he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to spoken word. He has never been to a show but still thinks he knows all about it. πŸ™‚ I have played him a few tracks by notables like Steve Sauve and John Akpata. He was unimpressed. He even said that John Akpata had no rhythm.

John Akpata.

Clearly Gilles is an idiot.


Seriously though, he IS my friend. We just differ on this point. He once told me that poets just spit out angst, angst, angst. I told him that I don’t. When I started writing this poem (it started being about the image of turning the wheel across the center line while driving), I remembered that I said I didn’t write angst, and that would certainly fall into that category. Then I started to think, “if you can’t write ‘angst’, what do you do if things really ARE bad and your head IS in a dark place?”

That led to this poem.

So, thanks Gilles!

(Oh, the Unhappy Angst-Men joke is old. Back in the early 80s my friend Shawn Kilpatrick was telling me about the Uncanny X-Men comic and he told me that it was angst-filled. I dropped the Unhappy Angst-Men line… and I never forgot it.)

So, thanks Shawn!


I told a friend that
I perform poetry.
He said that poets just
Spew angst,
Overgrown emo kids
Ranting about all the
Perceived failings in
Their lives.
I told him that he was right and
That we have banded together
To form a new super-hero team:
The Unhappy Angst-Men!
We fight crime but
We don’t feel good about it.

No angst for me, I said.
I write about art and music
And books and love
And suicide and child abuse
Because sometimes writing happy
Is a lie.
Sometimes putting on a brave
Face with your mouth pulled up
In a rictus-grin
Only serves to deepen the
Pits as shovelfulls of dirt
Are dumped on your face as you
Close your eyes and wait for
It to be over.

Is that angst?
But is the world better served
By a Tom Sawyer
Whitewash over the screaming
News headline graffitti that
Reminds us that just because
She was smiling doesn’t mean
June Cleaver was happy?
As the world tightens
A rubber tube tourniquet
Around its forearm
We remember
That there is no difference
Between track-marks
And highways
When the end of the line
Doesn’t hold salvation.

We lump the kid with the
Hollow realization of
Mediocrity in with
Those who see rebellion as
A fashion statement
And think that a $40
Haircut can make them
Seem more ‘street’ –
Putting tears in
A new pair of jeans so they
Can fit in with those
Who would trade any amount
Of ‘street’ for a new
Pair of jeans…
Or a bite to eat…
Not that they would admit it,

Because neediness equals
Vulnerability equals
Depression is some sort
Of personality fault,
But try telling that to
The kid who wonders how
Many pills it would take
Or the woman who sees the
Center line as the perfect
Spot to turn the wheel
And face the headlights
Of the on-coming truck.

If it is wrong to let the
Darkness out…
Stopping it from gnawing at
Your insides until you
Are as hollow as you feel…
Then how do you fight the
Because sometimes the
World just fucking sucks and
The opposite of depression
Isn’t joy.
It is indifference,
Because caring cuts both ways.

So give the emo kids their
Stupid haircuts and whiny music
If that’s what gets them
Through the day,
And if you are having trouble
Holding on, tell me!
I will listen.
Because detachment
Doesn’t make you cool,
Stoicism doesn’t equal strength
And suffering in solitude
Is never nobler
Than healing together.
So to my friend that thinks
All poets spew angst
I’ll wear that mantle with
Pride because what you call
Angst I call giving a shit
And I’ll defend that
Until the day I die.


Next up is, uh… nothing yet. I have cleaned out my notebook. Until I write something new…

I really want to write a poem about the police. Maybe that will be next.

A Van Full of Poets

Posted: February 22, 2010 in Poetry, Slam
Tags: ,

Capital Slam was Saturday and for the SECOND SLAM IN A ROW, fully HALF of the slammers were women! In fact, since three of the four open micers were women, there were more female performers than male!

Wow, it seems like just yesterday when we were asking ourselves why women weren’t coming out to slam!

Open Secret won the show with the top five rounded up with Caytey Lush (a visiting slammer from Motnreal), Loh El, Sean O’Gorman (his best result yet!), and in from Lanark County – Inez Dekker! DaneJahRas was the feature and he was great!

The next Slam is on March 6th and features Elyse Maltin. For March there will be a priority sign-up for any poet who has slammed only once this season. To be clear, though, there is a lot of them (we have had 67 different slammers this season!), so it is still no guarantee. Make sure you get there early.

For the record, the poets who have priority this time are:
Angela Plant
Brandon Wilson
Brother Gavin
Cathy MacDonald-Zytveld
Caytey Lush
Crazy Dave
Dan C.
DJ Aunt Heather
Douglas Thew
Father Truth
Graham Coles
Inez Dekker
Jenna Tenn-Yuk
Jonathan Appleseed
Josie Frank
Ken Kicksee
Kevin Matthews
Madame H
Miriam Alsakammari
Monica King
Monique Simonot
N is for Nubian
Nathan Bishop
Ron Lankton
Ruby Ruth
Ruthanne Edward
Sir Realist
Tammy Mackenzie
Truth Is…

CONTEXT: November, 2007

October, 2007 included my first ever trip to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. The Ottawa team was Free Will (2007 CapSlam champion), Nathanael Larochette, One (Mehdi Hamdad), me (Rusty Priske) with Danielle K.L. Gregoire as the alternate.
We rented a van and drove out to Halifax (though Nate was already out there and we brought John Akpata and Kevin Matthews along with us in the van).
That was something. I really value the opportunity to spend time with people I care for and respect.

As for how the competition went… you can glean some of it from the poem, but let us just say we didn’t do so well. We finished 8th out of 8 teams. On the first night, I was the lowest scoring poet out of anyone.

I took that pretty hard.

I came to grips with it eventually and then came back to Ottawa and went back to work.

Wow, was THAT hard.

As much as poetry has brought to me, it has also cost me something. I remember when I could be satisfied with a regular job. Now I feel like my need to pay the bills is such a waste of time. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with the job, just that I feel like I should be a full time artist.

Well, that sure isn’t going to happen.

Oh well.

As a bit of trivia, this poem is the worst performing slam poem I have ever done. A lot of that is circumstantial. I performed it in January, 2008. I wasn’t planning on competing but due to weather we had a poor turn out and I was pressed into service. I was sick and didn’t have the piece memorized, so I had to read it.

Anyway… oh, yeah. Everything in this poem about the trip is true… AND it actually happened. πŸ™‚

    A Van Full of Poets

Slipping into gear
And pulling away from the curb
A van full of poets
Heading east seeking
Neither fame nor fortune

Six people so enamoured with words
That they have become their calling
Leads to interesting conversation
From the history of hip-hop
And understanding overstanding
And the grand new adventure
When Rusty misses yet another
Correct exit

Putting normalcy in the rearview
As Why Art? becomes Why Not Art?
And what you are and what you do
Is no longer defined by a paycheque

The asphalt slips by
As a carousel of mountains and trees
Turns around us

The props guy flips a switch and greens
Turn to golds and yellows and reds
And reality turns to surreality as
We enter Charlie’s world and marvel
At the wonder of a Hot Chocolate Bay

Stops are like rituals of liquid
Intake and output before climbing
Back into our literary chariot,
Pilgrimage not paused, but extended
By the grace of old man Irving

We step into a coffee shop to discover
Vegan muffins and tea
And the barista asks,
“Are you guys a band?”
And seems no less imrpessed
When we say, “No. We’re poets.”

And I have to admit that I wasn’t
Completely truthful when I said
We seek neither fame nor fortune

In Halifax our van full of poets
Becomes a city full of poets
Or at least it seems that way
Or maybe a country
As we see sea to sea

Poet after poet after poet
And then we go
And then I go

Something shifts
I am not the conquering hero
Spreading love and magic
Through art and word
Something slips
And I wonder if
I let my community down

Scrutiny isn’t new to me
I’m used to being read
Worldwide and rail-thin
By people who think they could
Do it better (and maybe they could)
But this time my critic was me

Then, all of a sudden, I was free
The scores no longer mattered
I mean, we always SAY they don’t matter
But this time it was actually true
Freedom to share love and pain
Excitement and rage
Loneliness and fear
And life

Doing poetry in the rain
Surrounded by my sister and brothers
Having poets and the crowd and even
A random stranger in the street
Tell me that my words moved them
Is better than any trophy

Then back in the van
Sharing stories of love and tears
Leaving the magic of a life
Of art and beauty behind
To return to computer screens
And fabric walls
And staff meetings
Where creativity is misdefined
As problem solving
And art is something inoffensive
Put on a boardroom wall
Because some expert said
It was ‘conducive’ to something or other

I want to love in that ‘other’ world
Where everyday is poetry day
And payment comes from a
Warm smile of understanding
Instead of a number, digitally
Transferred from one machine
To another

And ideas matter
And words matter
And music matters
And I matter
And you matter
And we matter

And then, just for a moment
I am there

The walls slip away
And the universe lies exposed
The laws of physics give way
To the laws of dreamers

I get into the van and say,
“Climb in. There is room for everyone.
Of course you can bring your guitar.”

I slip into gear and pull away from the curb
A van full of poets
Heading anywhere
Seeking everything


Next up is the OTHER poem inspired by the Halifax trip… and in turn has done some inspiring of its own…